“Mnuchin is just play-acting,” says one investment strategist. “It looks like he was instructed to go out and do something, and he jumped on the first thing he thought of.”
Back in the fall of 2008, as the financial world was falling apart, investors and financial journalists grew accustomed to a weird weekly dance. On Sundays, the White House would convene a meeting or some conference calls, and assure everyone that, yes, things were scary but plans were in place, and Great Financial Minds would sort things out.
Later, when the Obama team took over, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner rather famously cajoled bank CEOs into buying other banks to avert even more financial disaster. The key was often doing it before the markets opened, trying to avert any perception of a bank run.
And, crucially, everyone seemingly working from the same playbook.
Fast-forward 10 bumpy years to this Sunday, when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted one of the more baffling public statements in recent financial history. He had spoken with the heads of the big banks, he said, and noted that none had experienced “any clearance or margin issues.” Money-speak for, “everyone is fine and there is plenty of cash.”
It’s what you say to try and restore confidence during a bank run. Except there isn’t one.
The panic right now seems to come not from the market—which is indeed operating so far as it should—but from the treasury secretary, responding to the president.
“Right now, we don’t have a problem, per se,” said Julia Coronado, an economist and the head of MacroPolicy Perspectives. “Mostly it looks like the market itself is correcting.”